Walking In Lake Forest

One of the unique features of Lake Forest is its extensive system of Open Lands.

The Open Lands are managed by the Lake Forest Open Land Association and the neighboring Middlefork Savannah, is managed by the Lake County Forest Preserves District.

There are many fabulous walks available. The above links provide maps and other information to guide your way.

One of my favorite starting points is the Middle Fork Savannah, located west of Waukegan Road on Middle Fork Drive; it’s the only stoplight between Deerpath Road and Route 176. Go to the end of the Drive where you can park behind the farmhouse buildings of Elawa Farm, currently under restoration.

The organic gardens to the east are part of the restoration, and are worth a visit at the beginning or end of your walk. The cut flowers and produce will be sold at the adjacent open-air market, which is open Tuesday through Saturday. If you are there during tomato season, you will be absolutely astounded by the variety of heirloom tomatoes in vibrant colors. Buy some for dinner, and you will make the most visually stunning salad!

As you enter the crushed limestone path to the west, you will see the trailhead, with a number of marked trails. I will profile one basic trail, and then give a couple of options to lengthen your walk depending on your energy and mood. Please note: If you bring your dog, it must be leashed or you will run the risk of a hefty fine.

Basic walk:

Turn right (north) as you enter the trail and continue for about 0.6 miles. You will cross over one bridge, and just before you get to the next bridge you will see a footpath on the left. Turn left here and you will skirt along the woods on your right as you circle back to the parking lot. Total distance is 1.1 miles.

Short add on:

Leave the trail, walk through the parking lot and enter the Elawa Garden. Walk up the central path and marvel at the hardworking volunteers and the fruits of their labors. As you leave the garden you will be entering the Middle Fork Savannah, managed by the Lake Forest Open Lands. You can pick up the trail either to the left or the right; each way circles around the woods and returns you to the top of the Elawa Garden.

Mid-length add-on:

As you complete the basic walk, turn right (south) along the main path that follows along the river (the “river” goes by the glorified name of the “Middle Branch of the North Fork of the Chicago River,” but locals have always called it the “Skokie Ditch”). Just before you get to the next bridge, you will notice a footpath to your left. Take this path along the east bank of the Skokie Ditch.

After several hundred yards, you will exit into one of the most obscure parks in the City of Lake Forest: Meadow Wood Park. There will likely be nobody there, since there is no convenient access to this park, and no parking is allowed adjacent to the park! Cross the park heading east and you will see a footpath through the woods. Take this path and you will exit into the cul-de-sac of Ash Lawn Drive.


Walk to your left along the sidewalk and you will see a paved path running north between the houses. Take this path, which will exit onto another cul-de-sac. Take the sidewalk to the left, bear left at first intersection with Summerfield Drive, then bear right at the intersection with Acorn Trail Drive. Walk along the drive until you get back to the Middle Fork Savannah gate entrance.

You can either take this path to your right (east) which will circle around the entire grove of oak trees, or go to the left and head back to the parking lot.

What you can see:

Any of these walks will fit any walking agenda—exercise, contemplative and de-cluttering, dog walking, brainstorming, friendship, etc.—but with the added bonus of great bird watching. Binoculars will enhance your enjoyment of nature’s beauties.